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Changing the Rider

Originally published in Pro Audio Asia
January-February 2013 issue

Eason Chan Duo world tourPerhaps the ultimate compliment a front of house engineer can make to any piece of equipment is adding it to their tech rider. Being on this list means an engineer regards the tool as something that will help them connect the performer to the audience in the best possible way.

While most of the time the options provided on the rider will be available, sometimes promoters cannot supply the requested equipment. In these cases the tech rider will be a guideline and engineers will be flexible with the system they use. While using an unfamiliar PA can be challenging, sometimes it can provide a new experience that makes an engineer think about what they ask for on the rider.

Eason Chan’s FOH engineer Frankie Hung found himself in this position after the Chengdu leg of the performer’s recent Duo world tour. Tour promoter AMC called on Clair Brothers Audio Systems for the PA for the gig at the Chengdu City Sports Centre. AMC had recently purchased a Clair Brothers system through local distributor DMT for Chinese superstar Faye Wong’s comeback tour, and were eager to work with the US-based company again.

While the PA for this concert was not on the rider, the way it performed has made Mr. Hung rethink what systems he asks for. ‘My last impression of Clair’s FOH products goes back over 10 years to the R4, and that was the only set in Hong Kong and China,’ notes Mr. Hung. ‘But after we did a couple shows with the new i218, the top-three list on my rider has been changed.’

‘Clair Brothers Audio Systems has always set the bar for how concert sound systems should perform for any artist, anywhere in the world,’ declares Steve McCale, senior product specialist at Clair Brothers. ‘We are excited to work with promoters like AMC and are committed to providing excellent customer service and superior technical solutions for live sound. We are all about delivering great sound and great service with the best equipment and people in the industry.’

The solution used for the show was designed by Mr. McCale and the Clair Brothers team in the US in collaboration with DMT, and the equipment was shipped the Chengdu for the concert. During the design process, the senior product specialist noted some potential challenges the venue would present for the audio. The largest of these came with providing sound to a large space at the back of the stadium behind the mix riser. ‘Normally, you would have delay speakers hanging somewhere near the back of the mix tower that would cover these areas. But in this case, we had no way to do that,’ explains Mr. McCale. ‘Instead, we had to cover that area from the main array, without killing the FOH mixer with too much high frequency information beamed at his position.

‘We knew we must get maximum power to the back of the stadium and cover the floor area behind the mix,’ continues Mr. McCale. ‘So, we used EASE Focus II to predict the array design and estimate what the coverage would be. It became evident that the system would be capable of covering the entire stadium, including the area behind the mix. We just had to be precise when installing the arrays to ensure the angles would be perfect for covering the space evenly, without putting too much HF energy on the mix riser.’

To achieve this, the Clair Brothers cabinets were equalized in both vertical and horizontal zones. The upper cabinets were equalized to throw more high-end, while ‘smoothing out’ the ones pointed at the mix riser. ‘We were also able to “shade” the array as its coverage approached the front of the seating area to avoid overpowering the expensive seats down front,’ adds Mr. McCale.

A further challenge for the audio solution came when some of the equipment Clair Brothers planned on using for the event was delayed at customs. To overcome this, the company redesigned the system to integrate some Reyn Yang gear to fill the gaps. ‘You’re always going to face unforeseen circumstances on a tour, and Clair Brothers is well-prepared to deal with anything,’ reasons Mr. McCale, who toured with Clair Brothers throughout the 1980s and 1990s as both an FOH engineer and a monitor engineer. ‘Clair Brothers Audio Systems has a truly unique ability to help clients with challenges such as those we faced with Chan’s Chengdu concert. That what you get from 44 years of doing this.’

Following the late modifications, the system consisted of 28 Clair Brothers i218 large format line array elements, 16 Clair Brothers i212 medium format line array elements, 16 iS218 subs and eight Reyn Yang medium format line array elements. Power for the Clair Brothers part of the system came from PLM series amplifiers with Lake processing.

With the problems solved and the solution modified, the job of installing the system at the stadium fell to Reyn Yang Professional Sound under the supervision of DMT. It was configured with 14 i218s per side as the primary left and right clusters with eight iS218 subs stacked directly below and slightly in front of each array. To fill in the far right and left bleacher seats, an array of eight i212 cabinets was flown on each side. ‘No downfill cabinets are needed with this PA,’ says Mr. McCale. ‘The i218s do a fine job of covering down front, without adding extra smaller cabinets to the bottom of the array. This worked so well in fact, we did not have to utilize any front fill cabinets. The main array covered the whole area.’

The eight Reyn Yang cabinets were arrayed in two stacks of four and placed on 1m risers near the back of the floor seats and focused up into the far back bleacher seats.

Away from the main PA, Yamaha PM5D consoles were used for both monitors and the main FOH mix. On stage, Nexo PS15 cabinets were used as monitors while the main mic for Eason Chan was a Sennheiser 5000 Series with KK105 head. Added to this, an extensive package of microphones from Shure was also put to use during the concert.

After the Reyn Yang and DMT crew has installed the system at the stadium, Mr. McCale with Clair Brothers Audio – US came in to review the setup. The angles of the off-stage i212 arrays were slightly adjusted, and the Reyn Yang delay clusters were placed to help add more intelligibility to the very back of the stadium. Mr. McCale then tested and tuned the system before handing the controls over to Eason Chan’s FOH engineer.

‘The i218 surprised me with its detailed and silky high end, which didn’t case ear-fatigue even after a three-hour show,’ recalls Mr. Hung. ‘The mid-range was clean but warm. The artist management people even came to me and asked me why the artist sounded more sentimental than previous shows. The low-end was punchy and huge and it coupled very well with the subs. That is the weakest part on many line array systems.’

It was not only the FOH engineer who was impressed with the Clair Brothers system. Drummer Jun Kung also felt there was a noticeable different. ‘We’ve been doing concerts at these huge sports stadia that seat 50,000 people every weekend. On stage behind my drums, the sound will bounce back due to the huge spaces. But I did notice that the sound that was bouncing back was a more solid sound when we were using the Clair Brothers i218-M, and the vocals that were bouncing back were very clear and very obvious,’ noted Mr. Kung. ‘It wasn’t a washy sound of mushed up reverb and voice. It was more solide and not all over the place. My kick drum sounded huge and solid!’

Equally pull of praise for the system and Clair Brothers in general was Clement Choi from DMT. ‘They provided excellent sound for this concert. It was loud and clear with good, consistent coverage from 10m to 70m with only 4dB difference,’ he explains. ‘Clair Brothers has an extensive stable of professional touring engineers, such as Mr. McCale, and are committed to making their experience and expertise available to clients in need. This truly sets them apart from other manufacturers.’

The universal praise the system received followed the Chengdu concert was enough to make Mr. Hung reconsider the equipment he requests. While this was one of the last legs of the Duo world tour, the experience means that when the front of house engineer next sends out a tech rider, the Clair Brothers i218 will be on there. This is as high a praise for a sound system that any engineer could ever give.